Bishop Richard Malone told a Vatican reporter Thursday that rumors that he had submitted his resignation to Pope Francis were “absolutely false.”
For more than a year, Malone has been under pressure to resign over the Catholic Diocese of Buffalo’s handling of numerous claims of sexual abuse by priests. Malone has admitted to some “mistakes” but defended his record and denied he mismanaged the abuse cases.
Rumors of Malone’s pending resignation were sparked Wednesday by a tweet from a writer with The Tablet, a weekly Catholic journal based in London. Tablet reporter Christopher Lamb tweeted: “Hearing from reliable sources that Bishop Malone’s resignation is imminent.”
Malone, who is in Rome, was asked Thursday morning by a Catholic Herald reporter whether there was any truth to the rumor of his resignation.
“Absolutely false,” Malone replied, according to the Catholic Herald. “Thank you very much. That’s the end of our conversation.”
Diocese spokesperson Kathy Spangler said in a statement Wednesday that Malone “continues to serve as the leader of the Diocese of Buffalo” and was engaging other bishops” from New York state in their Ad Limina visit. The visit, Spangler said, included discussions with officials of the Holy See and Pope Francis on “areas of challenge and progress” of the church in New York and the “scope of the vibrant ministries serving the needs of New Yorkers, both Catholic and non-Catholic alike.”
“When Bishop Malone returns to Buffalo he will be communicating further about his meeting with the Holy Father and the other participating bishops,” Spangler said.
In October, a bishop tasked by the Holy See to examine Malone’s conduct amid allegations of sexual abuse in the diocese finished his work.
As part of his review, Brooklyn Bishop Nicholas DiMarzio made three fact-finding trips to Western New York. Associated Press reported that he spent a total of seven days meeting with and interviewing about 80 people in and outside the clergy and was expected to submit a full report to the Vatican.
At the time, Malone said he welcomed the process, called an apostolic visitation.
Malone has maintained that he will remain a bishop until March 19, 2021, when he turns 75, the age at which he is required by canon law to submit his resignation to the pope.
The diocese is the subject of dozens of lawsuits by people who claim to have been sexually abused by priests as children. A state law adopted earlier this year suspends the usual statute of limitations and opened a one-year period during which victims can file suits regardless of when the abuse occurred.
Although most of the abuse occurred long before Malone’s arrival in Buffalo, he has acknowledged mishandling claims involving adult victims.
Over the past year, two key members of Malone’s staff have gone public with concerns about his leadership, including his former secretary who secretly recorded him calling a then-active priest “a sick puppy” and fretting about his own future.